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Cannabis advocate and professional fighter Elias Theodorou dies at 34

Sep 12, 2022 | Media Partners, The GrowthOp

This post is presented by our media partner The Growth Op
View the original article here.

Theodorou remembered as ‘a great person and a huge voice for the more fair and equitable treatment of marijuana use in MMA and sport’

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Elias Theodorou, a former fighter in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and a longtime cannabis advocate, has died at the age of 34, according to multiple reports.

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Theodorou, the first professional athlete to be granted a cannabis Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) in North America, had been privately battling Stage 4 liver cancer, reports TSN.

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  1. FILE: Elias Theodorou (R) of Canada fights against Eryk Anders of the United States in a middleweight bout during the UFC 231 event at Scotiabank Arena on Dec. 8, 2018 in Toronto, Canada.

    Toronto native Elias Theodorou earns MMA’s first exemption to use medical marijuana

  2. FILE: Mixed martial artist Elias Theodorou trains at the MMA University in NE Calgary.

    MMA fighter Elias Theodorou set to make history with upcoming bout

  3. FILE: Elias Theodorou (R) of Canada fights against Eryk Anders of the United States in a middleweight bout during the UFC 231 event at Scotiabank Arena on Dec. 8, 2018 in Toronto, Canada.

    Canadian MMA fighter first pro-athlete to receive medical cannabis exemption in the U.S.

Hailing from Mississauga, Ont., Theodorou became the first Canadian to win The Ultimate Fighter: Nations Middleweight Tournament in 2014 and spent five years competing under the UFC banner.

His last fight, a victory over Bryan Baker in Colorado in 2021, marked the first time a professional athlete had competed with a cannabis TUE in the U.S.

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The year prior, Theodorou accomplished the same feat in Canada, defeating Matt Dwyer at Rise Fighting Championship 6 in his first event as a cannabis athlete.

It took six years of advocacy and appeals for Theodorou to be granted his Canadian exemption, which he received from the British Columbia Athletic Commission in January 2020. The exemption allowed Theodorou to continue his doctor-prescribed medical cannabis consumption to treat bilateral neuropathy and protected him from penalty if he tested above the threshold for in-competition use.

Theodorou previously told The GrowthOp his medical condition felt like “like constant stingers and radiating heat.”

After securing his cannabis TUE, Theodorou said he was hopeful that he would be able “to open the door for other athletes.”

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“I have plenty of fight left in me and I will continue knocking down the barrier between cannabis and sports,” told The GrowthOp in 2020.

A continuous advocate for the medical benefits of cannabis, Theodorou often spoke of the rights of athletes to utilize cannabis and plant-based therapies.

“If that means me securing my TUE state by state, country by country, then I will. I will do whatever it takes to fight the stigma, and advocate for all individuals,” Theodorou said after securing his U.S. exemption.

“[Theodorou] has been fighting the stigma of cannabis in sport and cannabis as medicine for years and getting the first U.S. Athletic Commission to recognize his medical rights in granting a TUE is a huge leap forward that can assist many other athletes,” lawyer Erik Magraken, managing partner of MacIsaac & Company, said after that decision.

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Across social media, cannabis advocates, athletes, mixed martial arts (MMA) reporters, fans and others have been sharing memories and anecdotes of their interactions with Theodorou.

In a video, U.S.-based MMA fighter Michael Chiesa said he “instantly found a friend the moment he met [Theodorou].”

“Elias was such a light-hearted guy, and he was the type of guy to give you the shirt off his back,” Chiesa said, before displaying a jacket that Theodorou had lent him after Chiesa was asked to participate in a press conference on short notice.

“He took his jacket off and he gave it to me. I never got a chance to give it back to him. That’s the type of guy he was and while I’m sad like a lot of people, he touched a lot of lives, I have to remember that I’m very blessed that I had the friendship that I had with him,” he added.

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Jeff Novitzky, senior vice president of athlete health and performance for the UFC, tweeted that Theodorou was a “great person and a HUGE voice for the more fair and equitable treatment of marijuana use in MMA and Sport.”

Over the course of his career, Theodorou fought in 22 bouts in MMA, including 11 in the UFC in the middleweight division.

Speaking with The GrowthOp in 2020, Theodorou said that “cannabis allows me to be more in tune with my body, medicate and manage my pain — not just as an athlete, but the pain management helps me manage my condition as a human being.”

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